Alberta Junior Hockey League

Last updated
Alberta Junior Hockey League
AJHL Logo.svg
Sport Ice hockey
No. of teams16
Most recent
Brooks Bandits (5)
Most titles Calgary Canucks (9)
Official website OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Former logo of the AJHL, until 2006 AJHL Logo.png
Former logo of the AJHL, until 2006

The Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) is an Alberta-based Junior A ice hockey league that belongs to the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL). It was formed as a five-team league in 1964. There are currently 16 teams in the league. The regular season league champions receive the Dave Duchak Trophy. The playoff champions receive the Inter Pipeline Cup (previously known as the Carling O'Keefe trophy and Gas Drive Cup). The winner of the AJHL playoffs continues on to play in the Doyle Cup series, which determines the Pacific region berth in the national Junior A championship, the Centennial Cup.



The early 1960s saw a much different junior hockey scenario in Alberta than what currently exists. The Edmonton Oil Kings were the only true Junior-A-calibre team in the province and drew most of the top talent Alberta had to offer. The Oil Kings were the Western Canadian champions from 1962 until 1966, Abbott Cup champions in 1954 and from 1960 to 1966, and Memorial Cup national champions in 1963 and 1966. In 1966, the Oil Kings helped create the Western Hockey League. The issue in 1964 was that there were hundreds of junior-calibre players in the province, but really only one team to play for. A group of business and hockey people got together in 1964 and decided to form a Junior "A" league in an attempt to truly develop Alberta hockey. The original league consisted of the Edmonton Safeway Canadians, the Edmonton Maple Leafs, the Lethbridge Sugar Kings, Calgary Cowboys, and the Calgary Buffaloes.

The Edmonton Safeway Canadians and Maple Leafs later merged in 1971 to become the Edmonton Mets, then moved to Spruce Grove to become the Spruce Grove Mets in 1974. They lasted only three seasons in Spruce Grove; however, they won the AJHL title twice, and the Manitoba Centennial Trophy in 1975. In 1976, they moved again to become the St. Albert Saints, where they won three more league titles. In 2004, the team returned to Spruce Grove as the Spruce Grove Saints. This well-travelled franchise has sent over 30 players into the National Hockey League, including Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier. [1]

One of the AJHL's most famous franchises, the Red Deer Rustlers, joined the league in 1967, capturing the championship in their first season. The Rustlers had attempted to join the Western Canada Junior Hockey League, but were blocked by the Alberta Amateur Hockey Association, and instead placed in the AJHL. [2] In 1971, the Rustlers captured the first Manitoba Centennial Trophy as national Junior A champions. The Rustlers, who featured all six Sutter brothers who would go on to the National Hockey League, won eight AJHL titles and two Centennial Trophies during their existence. They were expelled from the league, however, in 1989, and formally folded in 1992 when the Red Deer Rebels joined the WHL. [3]

In 1971, the Calgary Canucks were founded following the demise of the Cowboys and Buffaloes. Today, the Canucks are the oldest franchise still operating in the AJHL. It was founded with a mandate to focus on giving Calgary-area kids a place to play while focusing on their educational needs. The Canucks have captured a league record nine AJHL championships and won the Centennial Cup in 1995, the Canadian Championship of Junior A hockey, now known as the Royal Bank Cup.

After a game on February 21, 1980, the AJHL was shaken by a tragedy. Twenty-year-old Trevor Elton, Captain of the Sherwood Park Crusaders was hit cleanly along the boards by a player on the St. Albert Saints in St. Albert, Alberta. Elton landed and went into convulsions and died later that night while in hospital. [4]

On November 26, 2010, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons and Drayton Valley Thunder played the first ever modern era regulation outdoor junior hockey game at MacDonald Island in Fort McMurray. The game was known as the "Northern Classic". [5] The 5,000 tickets available for the game sold out in less than an hour, and consequently broke the league attendance record of 4,400. [6] The current attendance record was set in 2017 as 5,989 fans watched the Okotoks Oilers and Spruce Grove Saints play the last game at Northlands Coliseum. [7]

On May 2, 2012, the AJHL announced its approval of a request from the St. Albert Steel to relocate the team from St. Albert to Whitecourt to become the Whitecourt Wolverines. [8]

Current teams

North Division
Bonnyville Pontiacs Bonnyville, Alberta R. J. Lalonde Arena 1991
Drayton Valley Thunder Drayton Valley, Alberta Drayton Valley Omni-Plex 1998
Fort McMurray Oil Barons Fort McMurray, Alberta Centerfire Place 1981
Grande Prairie Storm Grande Prairie, Alberta Bonnetts Energy Centre 1995
Lloydminster Bobcats Lloydminster, Saskatchewan Centennial Civic Centre 1988 [lower-alpha 1]
Sherwood Park Crusaders Sherwood Park, Alberta Sherwood Park Arena 1976
Spruce Grove Saints Spruce Grove, Alberta Grant Fuhr Arena 1963 [lower-alpha 2]
Whitecourt Wolverines Whitecourt, Alberta Scott Safety Centre 1976 [lower-alpha 3]
South Division
Blackfalds Bulldogs Blackfalds, AlbertaEagle Builders Centre2021 [lower-alpha 4]
Brooks Bandits Brooks, Alberta Centennial Regional Arena 2000
Calgary Canucks Calgary, Alberta Henry Viney Arena 1971
Camrose Kodiaks Camrose, Alberta EnCana Arena 1997
Canmore Eagles Canmore, Alberta Canmore Recreation Centre 1995 [lower-alpha 5]
Drumheller Dragons Drumheller, Alberta Drumheller Memorial Arena 2003
Okotoks Oilers Okotoks, Alberta Foothills Centennial Arena 1998 [lower-alpha 6]
Olds Grizzlys Olds, Alberta Olds & District Sports Complex 1974 [lower-alpha 7]
  1. founded in 1982 in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League
  2. Spruce Grove Saints since 2004, originally Edmonton Movers.
  3. Whitecourt Wolverines since 2012, originally Fort Saskatchewan Traders.
  4. Blackfalds Bulldogs since 2021, originally The Pass Red Devils.
  5. Canmore Eagles since 2001, originally Bow Valley Eagles.
  6. Okotoks Oilers since 2005, originally Crowsnest Pass Timberwolves.
  7. Olds Grizzlys since 1981, originally Taber Golden Suns.

Future teams

Formerly the Calgary Mustangs, which went on hiatus in 2019, the Blackfalds Bulldogs will commence play out of the Blackfalds Multiplex in the Town of Blackfalds in the AJHL's South Division in the 2021–2022 season. [9]

National Junior A Championships

Teams from the AJHL have captured the National Junior A Championship nine times. The championship was formerly known as the Manitoba Centennial Trophy until 1995 and the Royal Bank/RBC Cup from 1995 to 2019.

Playoff champions

Locations of AJHL teams (North Division teams in red; South Division teams in blue) Alberta Junior Hockey League locations.svg
Locations of AJHL teams (North Division teams in red; South Division teams in blue)

The playoff championship cup was originally known as Carling O'Keefe Cup before it began going by several other sponsored names:

The winners of the AJHL playoffs then advance to the Doyle Cup against the playoff champion of the British Columbia Hockey League. The winner of the Doyle Cup then advances to the National Junior A Championship, previously known as the Royal Bank Cup and RBC Cup. From 2013 to 2017, instead of the Doyle Cup to qualify to the National Championship, the AJHL playoff winner participated in the Western Canada Cup.

League champions by year
YearLeague championLeague runner-up
Memorial Cup era
1965Calgary BuffaloesCalgary Cowboys
1966Calgary BuffaloesEdmonton Canadians
1967Edmonton Western Movers
1968Edmonton Western Movers
1969Lethbridge Sugar Kings
1970Red Deer Rustlers
Centennial Cup era
1971Red Deer RustlersLethbridge Sugar Kings
1972Red Deer RustlersCalgary Canucks
1973Calgary CanucksRed Deer Rustlers
1974Red Deer RustlersThe Pass Red Devils
1975Spruce Grove MetsDrumheller Falcons
1976Spruce Grove MetsTaber Golden Suns
1977Calgary CanucksTaber Golden Suns
1978Calgary CanucksFort Saskatchewan Traders
1979Fort Saskatchewan TradersCalgary Canucks
1980Red Deer RustlersCalgary Canucks
1981St. Albert SaintsTaber Golden Suns
1982St. Albert SaintsCalgary Spurs
1983Calgary CanucksFort McMurray Oil Barons
1984Fort Saskatchewan TradersRed Deer Rustlers
1985Red Deer RustlersSherwood Park Crusaders
1986Calgary CanucksSherwood Park Crusaders
1987Red Deer RustlersSt. Albert Saints
1988Calgary CanucksSt. Albert Saints
1989Red Deer RustlersFort Saskatchewan Traders
1990Calgary CanucksSherwood Park Crusaders
1991Calgary RoyalsFort Saskatchewan Traders
1992Olds GrizzlysFort McMurray Oil Barons
1993Olds GrizzlysFort Saskatchewan Traders
1994Olds GrizzlysFort McMurray Oil Barons
1995Calgary CanucksOlds Grizzlys
1996St. Albert SaintsFort McMurray Oil Barons
1997Fort McMurray Oil BaronsCalgary Canucks
1998St. Albert SaintsFort Saskatchewan Traders
1999Calgary CanucksSt. Albert Saints
2000Fort McMurray Oil BaronsCamrose Kodiaks
2001Camrose KodiaksDrayton Valley Thunder
2002Drayton Valley ThunderGrande Prairie Storm
2003Camrose KodiaksSt. Albert Saints
2004Grande Prairie StormFort McMurray Oil Barons
2005Camrose KodiaksFort McMurray Oil Barons
2006Fort McMurray Oil BaronsCamrose Kodiaks
2007Camrose KodiaksFort Saskatchewan Traders
2008Camrose KodiaksFort McMurray Oil Barons
2009Grande Prairie StormSpruce Grove Saints
2010Spruce Grove SaintsFort McMurray Oil Barons
2011Spruce Grove SaintsCamrose Kodiaks
2012Brooks BanditsFort McMurray Oil Barons
2013Brooks BanditsSpruce Grove Saints
2014Spruce Grove SaintsDrumheller Dragons
2015Spruce Grove SaintsBrooks Bandits
2016Brooks BanditsSpruce Grove Saints
2017Brooks BanditsWhitecourt Wolverines
2018Spruce Grove SaintsOkotoks Oilers
2019Brooks BanditsSpruce Grove Saints
2020–2021Not awarded due to COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta

Timeline of teams in the AJHL

NHL alumni

As of 2006, nearly 200 AJHL alumni have gone on to play in the National Hockey League. [1] Among them:

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  1. 1 2 AJHL Annual Guide & Record Book 2006–07, pg. 98
  2. AJHL history—1960s Archived 2006-04-22 at the Wayback Machine ,
  3. AJHL history—1980s Archived 2006-04-22 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Junior player dies after game. Regina Leader-Post , February 21, 1980, Pg. 20.
  5. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2010-09-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. "Junior outdoor hockey game tickets a hot sell". Calgary Herald. 2010-11-03. Retrieved 2010-11-03.
  7. "Oilers win historic game at Northlands Coliseum". 22 December 2017.
  8. "AJHL Moving to Whitecourt, Alberta". Alberta Junior Hockey League. 2012-05-02. Archived from the original on 2012-05-11. Retrieved 2012-05-03.
  9. Byron Hackett (April 30, 2020). "Lots of work to do for Blackfalds Bulldogs ahead of 2021-22 AJHL season". Red Deer Advocate . Black Press Media . Retrieved April 30, 2020.